Tag Archives: negativity

Reframing Negatives To See The Positives

The expressionREFRAMING NEGATIVES to see them in a more positive light, captured my attention recently. One of my friends had been talking about it and then a couple of days later I happened to read it in a book as well. I really liked the concept and have been pondering how I can apply it to my own life and current health challenges.

How can I reframe a negative situation so that it can be viewed more positively?

It’s often not easy to do this when you are facing challenging seasons. But I do have to ask myself daily – what is my other option? I could spend each day dwelling on, and being overcome, by all the negative implications of my current restrictions. But then I am just going to end up in a cycle of despair and frustration.

I have been there and it is fruitless, so very destructive and just makes me feel worse in every way.

So my only other option is that I have to reframe it! I have to find some positives here!

reframing negatives copy

Reframing is simply about looking at something with a different perspective. It’s about seeing ourselves, others, a circumstance or situation with new eyes. It can be a powerful and transforming process if we can fully embrace its potential.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

Our lives here are such, that there is always a sense of uncertainty about tomorrow. Yes there are some things we can predict, believe or hope for, because of decisions and choices we make today. But very little of our day to day existence in this world is truly fixed. There is an impermanence about our current lives. We all have to dwell in these fragile bodies that are subject to death and decay.

And yet there is also always a bigger picture we can’t see. I may only know the significance of today when looking back from the hindsight of tomorrow. Some parts of today may look desolate, like the deadness of a tree in winter, but perhaps my spring is coming somewhere around the corner. Maybe green shoots of life will again appear and grow from what currently looks almost dead. And that may look very different than I can perhaps imagine with the limited perspective of today.

Perhaps tomorrow can and will be better than today. Or perhaps tomorrow will bring even more challenges. But then in the weeks, months and years that follow, things might again be totally turned around.

We often just don’t really know what the future might bring!

I regularly have to look at my current health problems like that. I can see how one day, if fully recovered, I would get to look back, and whilst not forgetting the struggles of this season, I would by then be more able to focus on the lessons learned as well as the depth gained.

But that perspective is so much easier to SEE when approached with the gift of hindsight. When the storm is finally over it’s easier to look back and be thankful about the fact you survived and have learnt so much from walking through it.

And yet,

It’s not so easy to do that when you still feel stuck in the storm and there is currently no true ending in sight. You are weary from the mountain of disappointments, you are tired of hoping and believing it will soon come to an end – but then it never does.

But life still has to go on regardless!

The storm won’t yet clear – but life is still happening, time is still ticking away.

reframing negatives LIVING copy

We have to find a way to keep on LIVING in this limbo – however long it lasts. I have to find ways to REFRAME the life I find myself living and find a way to live the FULLest life I can, amidst all it’s challenges and restrictions.

The unfinished painting, that is my life, is not looking as I hoped and intended it to look after 37 years on this earth. But rather than hide my unfinished ‘work in progress’ life painting away in the shame of its current state.

I have to choose to reframe it and hang it up for all to see – both the darkness AND the bright colours of this season. To show others that even the dry desert seasons, that seem to rob us of who we really are and want to be, can also produce exquisite detail. Detail that will reveal a new level of vulnerability and humility, if we let it. A deep work that brings growth, maturity and a better perspective during the struggle’s of this life.

I may not get to choose whether I walk through this road of chronic illness and pain. BUT if I can’t find a way to keep on LIVING here, how can I ask others to keep on LIVING and persisting in their own wilderness or stormy seasons? If I can’t reframe my own challenges to see the potential beauty here, then how can I support others to discover beauty when they are going through even tougher times than me.

I have a responsibility to my family and those around me, to find a way to reframe my struggles, challenges, weaknesses and failures. Until they become a voice to help encourage others in their own wilderness times.

reframing negatives voice of hope copy

Everyone faces battles that feel beyond them, at some point in their lives. And when we do, we need those voices that help us press in for the fight. People that understand both the pain of suffering and struggle, as well as finding a way to truly LIVE and press forward in its midst.

We need to hear the message that TOGETHER we can rise above the darkness of today. Until, even in the midst our own pain, we can become a beacon of hope to another.

So I choose to hang my ‘work in progress’ life painting where it can be fully seen. With all of its inaccuracies, imperfections and shadows. With both the lighter AND the darker shades both fully exposed. So that TOGETHER we can choose to SEE something different. And realise that the most inspiring and beautiful works of art are often not the ones of perfection. They are instead, the ones that tell a unique, expressive story of a REAL life lived.

A life of BOTH light and dark moments that are being made beautiful. Because the artist chose to see the potential of different shades of colour mixed together. A story that is being written to express something extraordinary. A masterpiece that will only become a masterpiece when it is finally finished. And when it is finished the times of preparation, rubbings out, mistakes, corrections and so many reworkings are no longer even perceived underneath.

A painting which tells the story of one person’s life journey. A human journey of both joy and pain, sorrow and laughter, suffering as well as true peace.

A picture that most of all I hope will tell a story of true love. A story about how it is love alone that truly conquers the darkness. It is love that can reframe any negative, until it ultimately becomes something far more vibrant and beautiful in the end. It is love that chooses to fight and never give up, even when our body is failing us.

So let me reframe my current challenges and see them in the light of love. How can I love in the midst of my ongoing storm? Who should I show love to in THIS season? How can I serve others around me, despite the many limitations of today?

So I welcome you into my world, with love, hoping and praying that TOGETHER we will find a better way through. That we can walk with each other celebrating the brighter seasons, whilst ALSO helping one another to reframe the darker moments of our lives. As well as the many many different shades of life in the inevitable seasons of the ‘in-between’.

“God had a purpose He knit you together for
But life has pulled at the seams
And you’re unravelling
And you can’t hold it together anymore
But God will, He will finish what He started
No thread will be left unwoven
Nothing will be left undone…..
But when He’s finished we will SEE
A beautiful tapestry
And know that nothing has been wasted in the end.”
– Steven Curtis Chapman ‘Finish What He Started.’

“For we are God’s masterpiece…”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭(The Bible)

To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.

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Learning To BE

Walk with me
Let’s forget the what-might-be
And slow to now.
– Speak Brother (Slow to Now)

These beautiful lyrics are a reminder that we sometimes have to slow down enough to live in THIS moment. To not let life rush us by. To make the most of every experience and to enjoy sharing those moments with others. Forgetting the ‘what-might-be’s’ and learning instead how to ‘slow to now’ so that we can be fully present;

Today
Now
In this moment.

The challenge of learning to BE, is just that. It’s about being present now, today; whatever today may bring. To not be defined by what we do or the titles we own.

Instead it’s about being:

ME, simply me, NOW.

This is probably one of the main lessons I have been learning over the last 18 months.

To be fully present TODAY, not distracted by fighting the limitations I currently face or the unknowns of tomorrow. But instead choosing to embrace THIS MOMENT and making the most of the opportunities I have HERE.

It’s not been easy. In fact, I have probably found it harder than any other point in my life. Because when you are dealing with difficult circumstances it is so easy to miss the wonder of the small things that still surround us. And yet, I have set out to learn and change for the better. To learn how to ‘let go’ of the unknowns, even when it’s so hard and when the future can seem so uncertain.

It’s a journey.
I am still learning.
I face the daily battles everyone else faces in their minds. (Particularly those of us fighting serious/ chronic illness or other turbulent circumstances).

And yet I hope that in sharing what I am still learning that we might learn together and in that way my journey might just help someone else.

Learning to Be copy

So how do we learn to BE?
It all sounds deep, but what does it really mean?

LETTING GO

Recently I have learnt a lot about the need to ‘let go’. To realise that there is so much I can’t control that I can only let go of. To choose not to allow worry and anxiety to take over and constantly dictate my mood and behaviour, overshadowing all I do.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own. – Matthew 6:34*

Worry and anxiety are usually caught up in our fears of the future and the ‘what if’s’. When we allow them to take over our thoughts they pull us to a place where we feel out of control and where the future feels beyond what we can cope with. That is what happened to me during the dark days at Christmas 2015 that I write about in ‘Breaking Through the Darkness.’

Letting go is often challenging, because you feel like you are letting go of everything you can’t control one minute only to find yourself taking it back the next. It actually takes learning new disciplines of the mind to learn to replace negative thoughts and learn how to redirect them.

It can often feel like an exhausting battle. But I do believe it is possible to find ways to replace negativity with positive thoughts and perspective.

On a practical level, deep breathing & relaxation can be a good outward form of letting go that can sometimes help us to deal with the inner things. The physical action of breathing in deeply then breathing out slowly can help us to let go of some of the tension and anxiety in our bodies.

BEING GRATEFUL AND THANKFUL

“It is not happiness that makes you grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes you happy.” David Steindl-Rast

These words are from David Steindl-Rast’s TED talk; ‘Want to be happy? Be grateful’. He talks about how we can learn to be grateful in EVERY given moment. It’s about a thankful perspective; CHOOSING TO SEE what we DO have instead of focusing on what we DON’T.

This is so important. Especially when we are dealing with difficulties in our lives. The storms in life have a tendency to pull us into them so that we can’t always see what we DO still have and the things that we CAN still be grateful for.

For me, gratefulness is often directed towards God. I daily try to thank Him for all the wonderful things in my life. We can learn to develop a daily habit of being thankful – practically we can write things down, pray about them or just choosing to focus our thoughts on them.

“I think that many times we let what should be extremely special to us—things we should be extremely grateful for—become too commonplace”. – Joyce Meyer

LEARNING TO SEE WHAT IS AROUND US

Learning to BE allows us to open our eyes to SEE more of the wonder of the world around us. To notice the beauty of nature and the joys of human relationship. We can become more aware of our surroundings. Taking time to look more deeply and discover new things.

I have walked a lot in our local area over the past few months and discovered so many new places I had never been before. Sometimes there can be beauty all around us but we miss it because of our busyness or the distractions in our mind. Some days we need to be intentional about looking to SEE what is ALREADY around us.

REDISCOVERING PURPOSE

I believe that we are all designed to have a purpose; a role in this world that only we can fulfil. Endeavours that help us to feel alive and make our mark on the world. However, ask anyone who has faced having to ‘give up’ what they love to do due to injury, illness or other circumstances and they will probably tell you how hard it’s been.

Our identity is so caught up in ‘what we DO’ that when we can no longer DO those things we can feel purposeless. It feels like our life is of little value anymore.

Scott Dannemiller writes:
“… we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It’s the first question asked (of us)…. The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.”

I have definitely grappled with this over the past 18 months and wrote about it in Is Busyness A Choice?.

WHO AM I WHEN I CAN’T DO ANYTHING?

It is actually these seasons that draw out the deepest questions about our identity. Who am I really? We have to search for new meaning and purpose because it is not always obvious.

I have had to learn that I am valuable without having to DO anything. I have a place in this world just being me. And whatever the limitations are, there are still so many things I CAN DO:

  • I can love others.
  • I can hold my family and speak words of love and encouragement to them.
  • I can use my words to encourage and help others going through hard times.
  • I can choose to be grateful for every blessing, big or small and communicate that to others.
  • I can keep enduring through the trial so that we can all learn through it and that those coming behind me can have an easier path.
  • I can broaden my mind by listening to other people’s thoughts and ideas.
  • I can go deeper in my faith by spending time listening to and speaking with God in the quietness and allowing His words to shape my heart, heal my hurts and reignite my hope and purpose.

FINDING PEACE AND REST AMIDST THE STORM

Is it really possible to learn how to find true rest and peace in any moment, even when those moments are stressful?

I believe it is. I write about it in this post.

We can learn to manage our emotions rather than allowing them to manage us. –Joyce Meyer

But I also believe that we have to learn new ways to deal with negative circumstances so that they don’t pull us into a cycle of negative thoughts.

The fact is physical rest is NOT always good for our minds. We DO need to rest and we certainly DO need quietness. But sometimes the silence can be deafening, especially when rest is enforced. This is because rest can cause our minds to go into overdrive. Our thoughts take over and if they are more biased towards the negative, silence can make them worse. (Think of times you couldn’t sleep because your thoughts were ‘so loud’).

So we need to have resources that help us to be still and restful and yet simultaneously focus on more positive things. Music and meditations are good. I also love listening to inspiring talks like TED talks, other people’s stories of trials they have faced, as well as teaching and inspirational messages that encourage my faith. These help me to focus my mind and gain a better perspective through prolonged rest.

Learning to Be be still and know copy

So I am again choosing to ‘learn to Be’. I am not yet fully recovered from my CSF leak journey. Whilst some of the symptoms linger I have no choice but to learn a new way of living in which I cannot DO everything I would like to do.

But instead of fighting this season and getting worn out as I did at Christmas, I have to ‘let it roll’ to a certain extent. Yes, there are many things I can do and can change that will help my situation and I need to celebrate those. But I also have to realise that there are also many I just cannot change myself. So instead of frustration consuming me, I have to learn, each and every day to ‘let go’ of the ‘what may be’s’ and ‘slow to now’ so that I can savour;

Every
Beautiful
Moment
That STILL exists HERE.


Please do comment below and share some of the things you have learned about ‘living in the moment.’ You never know, it might really help someone who is struggling.

You can listen to Speak Brother’s song ‘ Slow to Now’ here.

*Verse from the NIV translation of the Bible.  (The verse in image from Psalm 34:14 is from the NLT translation of the Bible)

To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.

Breaking Through the Darkness

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. – A Proverb‬*

Have you ever reached the end of yourself?
REALLY reached the end of yourself?
When you are depleted at every level:
Physically,
Mentally,
Spiritually,
And psychologically?

When despair sets in and a darkness envelops you that feels so strong it literally attempts to strangle any life and hope out of you?

My world came crashing down in the week running up to and over Christmas this year and I fell apart in a way I never would have thought I could or would.

You see – I am strong!
I don’t give in easily!
I have a very real and deep faith in God!
I have a healthy thought life!
I don’t do being ‘weak’ so well!

I had held on all year.

Through an immensely difficult year for our family, following a serious and unusual spinal injury (a CSF Leak) that left me with major neurological problems.

I had finally received more treatment (a second epidural blood patch) for debilitating Low Pressure Headaches caused by a suspected CSF leak, and I had to muster up all the strength I had left to be positive, overcome fear and give recovery its best go. As I wrote about in When All that Remains is Faith, Hope & Love.

I had to be strong enough. Somehow I would be strong enough. I wasn’t going to give anything else away to this horrible condition.

I wouldn’t let it take more of my life.

The problem is that sometimes life takes us to places that are quite simply beyond us. Things don’t work out how we thought they would.

We give it everything we’ve got.

And then we find we have nothing left to give.

We humbly discover that we too are one of ‘those’ people we perhaps used to look down upon.

‘Those people’ who can’t cope. ‘Those weak people‘ that can’t keep going when life gets tough.

We discover….

THAT IS ALSO ME.

And it blasts everything we once thought about ourselves out the window.

‘We’ become ‘them’.
The one battling a chronic illness.
The one who ‘broke down’ mentally.
The one who felt like escaping life was perhaps better than living it like this.

And a new journey starts.

After weeks of waiting and battling for treatment – a second epidural blood patch – everything was poised in my mind.

THIS HAD TO WORK!
I HAD TO BE WELL AGAIN!

Being a positive, faith-filled person I filled my mind with that hope. Surely after all the discussions, waiting, battles and disappointments – it would work – IT HAD TO!! Our family couldn’t go through the trauma and chaos of any more upheaval because of this horrible and unusual injury.

I finally had my blood patch and all appeared to go well – although it certainly wasn’t an instant ‘fix it all.’ So I did what I always try to do – focus on the positive, believe, step out in faith and trust that as I regained my physical strength and conditioning that I would find complete health.

I did all that I could to push through various lingering, unpleasant symptoms. Stay positive and keep going. The problem was my body and mind was exhausted and as I pushed it more and more, it began to shut down. I survived for a time on shear willpower and adrenaline but 3 weeks after my blood patch I developed acute insomnia.

I would go to bed exhausted, sleep for 30 – 60 mins, then be awake all night …..every night…. for two weeks.

No ones body can survive like that whilst also battling a major neurological condition.

But I tried to keep on going, I thought ‘if I just keep going then I will get tired enough to sleep’. Then my conditioning will get back to normal.

I just wanted to be well for Christmas to leave this difficult year behind in 2015.

Things spiraled out of control physically and mentally – my symptoms seemed all over the place – before crashing in every way.

It was Christmas.

Usually a fun-filled family time of sharing gifts and eating together.

Christmas 2015 is a blur to me. I cried my way through it, in all honesty, exhausted, depleted in every way and not even wanting to live anymore – if living meant this.

I felt so very unwell and the relief that lying flat used to provide was not alway’s there. Which is why I couldn’t sleep. It was torture. My body and mind were utterly exhausted. I didn’t know what was going on.

I assumed that the blood patch had eventually failed and because of all the battles to get it I was not sure I could access another one.

I could no longer think straight.
I could no longer see a way forward.
I lost my perspective.

I naively and ridiculously found myself ‘wishing’ that what I had was terminal – because at least there would be an end in sight, if it was. At least there would be an escape from the inner and outer pain that I felt.

PAIN CONSUMED ME.

I felt stuck between an inner pain, grief, physical pain and such exhaustion that death seemed the only way out. Yet I knew to choose death would devastate those I would leave behind. Which added to my pain.

Breaking through the darkness copy

Darkness enveloped me and pain became my reality.
Hope felt out of reach.
Faith attempted to hold on with its finger nails but was losing it’s battle.

My pride was shattered.
I was not so strong after all.
I couldn’t do it anymore.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick – A Proverb‬*

My heart was sick and I felt lost in a pit of despair that no one could lift me out of. Even my wonderful husband was struggling to reach me.

There comes a time when – however strong we are – we come face to face with the depth of our weakness.

I had never imagined I could be ‘that person’. That I could reach a place where thoughts of depression, despair and even suicide not only became real but became an obsession.

I just wanted it all to stop!!

I couldn’t do this anymore!!
I couldn’t take the chaos!!
I couldn’t take feeling so ill!!
I couldn’t face the battles of trying to convince doctors to help!!
(I actually thought me falling apart mentally would make my chances of getting help for my underlying physical condition even more problematic. I was scared that they would assume it was all ‘in my head.’).

And yet I first had to face the reality of where I was. I had been battling an injury that directly affected my brain – for a year. I had spent almost 6 months of that year in bed, lying flat almost 24/7 and the rest of the year at nothing like full capacity.

There comes a time when – however strong we are – we come face to face with the depth of our weakness.

But, I still felt like I had failed. I blamed myself.
One mistake with a ladder had cost our family so dearly.
One accident had robbed us of our future.
One moment had wrecked EVERYTHING!
I decided that I had then probably ruined my last chance of getting better by ‘blowing’ this blood patch by doing too much.

I had no ‘fight’ left in me so hopelessness washed in like a flood.

EVERYTHING BECAME DARK.

I couldn’t see past the darkness. Attempts to battle negative thoughts whilst being physically so depleted and unwell seemed fruitless.

I JUST WANTED TO ESCAPE.

I convinced myself that my family would be better off without the burden of such a debilitated, chronically-ill wife and mother.

The pain of thoughts of dying came face to face with the pain of thoughts of living.

I DESPAIRED OF LIFE ITSELF

“Courage isn’t having strength to go on – it’s going on when you don’t have strength.” -Napoleon Bonaparte

BUT……. IN THE MIDST OF THE DARKNESS LOVE BROKE THROUGH!

All was not lost.

Love reached out to me and helped me to hold on.
Grace was still there waiting to be rediscovered.
I had to open my eyes again to see that the light of love was still burning in the darkness.

Family and friends simply loved and supported me. They helped me to rediscover a better perspective. My 8 year old daughter used to come and sit on my bed and with all the passion she could muster she would tell me how much she loved me and that she wouldn’t want any other Mummy but me – even when I am so unwell.

A new journey began.
It was not easy.
It has been painful.
It has been hard.
It has been confusing.

I have wrestled with myself.
Wrestled with my identity.
Wrestled with my faith.
Wrestled with the darkness.
Wrestled with various neurological symptoms.
Wrestled with how to move forward.

It has been a very confusing time symptoms-wise. After the new year things began to improve. Some things were still like low pressure headaches. Some felt different. It was hard to know what was going on in my body, brain and mind. Doctors were not always sure either.

I had to discover the strength each day to put one foot in front of the other to just get through intact. To pull through the pieces of a broken life and somehow find hope again.

“Honesty & steadfast faith – especially in the darkness – forms a powerful & enriching message for everyone in pain….. Sincerity and humility are essential.”Samuel Chand

Darkness had enveloped me at a time when I felt like I couldn’t find God any more. Hope returned as I discovered He was there with me all the time.

I just couldn’t ‘perceive’ Him.

I had to rediscover God’s love and grace. Learn to ‘let go’ of the life I had lived and choose to trust and hope that I could recover and that there was something better ahead. I had to battle the fear and anxiety that tried to persuade me that I would never be free. I had to learn to get comfortable with stillness, quietness and to embrace true peace and rest on a deeper level.

I had to learn to perceive God’s voice in a new way and hold onto the truths spoken over me.

Breaking through the darkness quote copy

I have had to rediscover who I am in its simplest form and be OK with a more simple life for a time.

A new depth of humility helped me to see that I had sometimes  judged others ‘weakness’ because I didn’t understand them. I have now developed a deeper empathy and compassion for others facing challenges and struggles; especially those linked to chronic and mental illness.

I have had to discover a new kind of strength that is actually born out of weakness.

It’s been an immensely difficult journey and one that it has taken me a while to write about. For a long time I felt like I had lost my voice and had very little to say that could help others.

And yet.

I know that as we talk about our deepest weaknesses and vulnerabilities, others can connect with us and know that they are not alone. It then gives our own pain more purpose because our story can bring a ray of light in the midst of another’s darkness.

“We may impress people by our strengths; but we connect with them through our vulnerabilities.” – Nicky Gumbel

It can be invaluable to know that someone else is also struggling and that your journey can help them too. We can then navigate the stormy seasons in our lives TOGETHER and some how help one another to weather the storm.

Albeit wounded.
Yet stronger.
With a new perspective.
More appreciation of life.
And a deeper empathy for others.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.” – Haruki Murakami



Please do feel free to comment below. To read more about my initial injury and journey with a CSF leak/ Low pressure headaches you can see these posts.

*Proverbs 13:12 from The Bible

UPDATE March 2018: It is now looking likely that after epidural blood patches I may well have experienced some rebound high pressure symptoms. This is a very confusing condition, that can be a severe complication of epidural blood patching/ CSF leak treatment. Here is my more in depth post about experiencing this after my 4th EBP in September 2017.


 

To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.

A fantastic informative video that you can refer to about spinal CSF Leaks, their symptoms and treatments is The Mystery Headache: Migraine, Positional Headache, Spinal Fluid Leak? by Professor Ian Carroll at Stamford University Hospital.

Breaking Free! From Discouragement

Do you ever feel discouraged?

I do
a lot.

Or at least a lot more than I should.

In fact, I started writing this post today because I began to feel discouraged. There was no particular reason, just more general feelings and thoughts which attempted to flood my mind and pull me into a discouraged place.

That might come as a surprise to a lot of people who know me personally, because I tend to be very positive and upbeat about life.

But I have a confession to make.

I battle with discouragement a lot.

I often find it creeping up on me, tapping away at my thoughts, attempting to get its claws into me.

A cloud that comes down and brings a foggyness to my outlook. Reminding me about all the obstacles, frustrations & challenges before me. It surrounds me and it’s difficult to break through.

It attacks my confidence, enthusiasm and identity. I can feel:
demoralised,
disappointed,
downhearted,
despondent.

It sucks away at the energy and life within me attempting to
kill my passion,
steal my joy &
plunder my peace.
Until I feel like I have no energy left to fight it anymore.

But I have learnt I have to fight it early on …. Regardless!

I can’t let it win. I have to break free from discouragement and it’s hold over me before it pulls me into a darker place that I will struggle to get free from.

I have to daily ‘take on’ the thoughts of discouragement and choose to see with more hope and faith. Some days that battle is harder than others, however, it is necessary to see life more positively.

Breaking free from Discouragement copy

WHAT DISCOURAGES US?

There are lots of different things and each one of us is affected by it in different ways.
Perhaps someone let you down, broke your trust, walked away.
Maybe your job or school work is harder than you expected and you are not making the progress you wanted.
Perhaps marriage and having children hasn’t been the experience you dreamt of.
Maybe life just seems to be hard and you are struggling to muster up the strength to continue each day.
Perhaps your plans and dreams haven’t worked out, things have gone wrong and you can’t see a way forward.

Discouragement knocks at your door and it’s hard to resist the flood of negative thoughts it brings with it telling you:

You are a failure
A nobody
You are not going to make it
You are not good enough
What you do is not enough
Why not give up
No one cares
You will just get hurt
Why do you bother
Things are never going to get any better.

All this is just too hard!
Life is just too hard!

But

We can’t let discouragement win!

I believe that discouragement is one of the biggest struggles that leaders, in particular, have to overcome. Until you become a leader, in any setting, you have no idea how hard it is.

You have to find the energy and passion to keep going yourself, plus a load extra to carry everyone else with you. It’s hard. There are a lot of responsibilities & commitments, that you have to shoulder. When everyone else drops out you have to stay standing strong and do it alone if necessary.

It’s in this area that I probably face the most discouragement.

To be a leader you have to have vision. This means that you are constantly seeing what ‘could be.’ Discouragement often takes hold when the ‘could be’ seems miles away from the current reality and the progress you are making seems so slow.

Every leader has days when they feel discouraged, wish they could throw in the towel and ignore their responsibilities. Discouragement comes knocking and it takes all your might to keep the flood gates closed.

This is why we should think about how we can encourage leaders.
Trust me, they need it!


Discouragement often takes hold when the ‘could be’ seems miles away from the current reality and the progress you are making seems so slow.


HOW CAN WE DEAL WITH DISCOURAGING THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS?

We have to fight discouragment. We have to push through it.

Discouraged people discourage people.

Negativity spreads like wild fire.

When people are discouraged it spreads. It takes a lot of courage and strength to break through an atmosphere of discouragement and refuse to be part of letting it spread. But it is the only way to stop it in its tracks.


Discouraged people discourage people.


Rick Warren wrote about discouragement:

“Fight back! Discouragement is a choice. If you feel discouraged, it’s because you’ve chosen to feel that way… Hang on! Do what’s right in spite of your feelings. No feeling lasts forever.”

Some people don’t like hearing that our feelings can be a choice. It means we have to accept more responsibility for what we feel, think and how we behave.

But I believe we have a lot more control over our emotions than we might think. I am not talking about hiding them or pretending they are not there, that isn’t healthy. I am talking about learning to not be ruled or defined by them.

Emotions and feelings usually begin with thoughts. We cannot necessarily control the initial thoughts that come into our head but we can choose whether we dwell on them or not, whether to let them draw us into a negative mindset. Which is something I spoke about in Breaking Free! From Worry.

When thoughts of discouragement enter my mind if I do not stop them in their tracks they have the potential to snowball and pull in other thoughts until my perspective becomes overwhelmed and I feel rubbish about everything.

Breaking free copy

HOW CAN I FIGHT DISCOURAGEMENT?

Be honest with myself.
Trying to ignore discouragement often makes it worse. It can pull us into the dangerous place of pretending and you can only pretend for so long before the reality comes crashing down upon you.

I realise I can’t do it alone.
I am personally grateful for the inner strength that comes from my relationship with God. I talk to him. I listen to his still small voice encouraging me, renewing my strength and vision.

I speak to someone I trust and I know will encourage me.
My husband Matt is great at that. Or a close friend can help. Someone I know who will help me to see with a more positive perspective.

I read words that will help me.
From the bible, good books, articles, or the hundreds of inspiring quotes I store in my phone.

I try to remember everything that I can be thankful for.
Even when other things are going wrong around me.

I look for opportunities to encourage someone else. 
Sometimes getting the focus off me and my problems, being aware of other people’s challenges and choosing to encourage them, helps me to break through my own discouragment.

It can take a lot of courage to choose to be hopeful in the face of discouragement. To keep trusting and believing even when things are a struggle.

But it’s the only way. Despair is not an option.

In this verse from the Bible God encourages Joshua to be strong and courageous not discouraged and afraid, so that he can lead the people.
In this verse from the Bible God encourages Joshua at the start of his leadership journey.

It starts with a choice.

Choose to be encouraged. Learn how to encourage yourself and let others encourage you.

You can then become an encourager rather than a discourager to other people and help to turn the tide away from a culture of criticism and negativity.

There is always something good going on around you that you can celebrate.

We just have to choose to see it. 


I would love to hear what you think:

Do you struggle with discouragement?
What do you do to deal with it?

There are lots of things we can do to fight against discouragement. Carey Nieuwhof gives some good advice in this blog post.

This post is part of my .Breaking Free. series of posts. Click here to see posts on Breaking Free from Fear and Worry.

The Insecurity Of Others Opinions

“What are they thinking about me?

The question goes through your mind again and again, sometimes in the forefront and sometime as a nagging whisper in the back of your thoughts.

“What are they saying about me?”
“Do they like me?” …

The insecurity of others opinions returns to rock our security again.

This is my second blog post on the subject of insecurity and how many of our insecurities come from both comparing ourselves to others and listening to and speculating about others opinions of us.

I know in my own life these are the two main issues that can leave me feeling like I want to hide under a rock, shut myself away from the world and never come out.

It’s these two issues that can end up consuming our thoughts, feed our anxieties and stop us in our tracks.

Even people who act like and say “I don’t care what other people think about me,” whilst holding on to their mastered, controlled and perhaps hardened exterior, cannot deny that it does reach, touch & affect them at times.

The wondering,
The thinking,
The questioning,
The avoiding,

“What’s going on in their thoughts?”

There are a few ways in which we are affected by what others think and say about us:
Firstly, when people openly talk about us, either to our faces, or indirectly on forums like social media.
Secondly the usual gossipy ‘behind our backs’ opinions. (which women are of course very prone to).
Then finally, although sometimes less discernible; through our own speculation about what others might be thinking and saying about us.

I think it’s the final one that is more damaging than it first appears, because our speculation means that we try and read people by the way they act towards us. This actually opens us up to potential misunderstandings because we read actions as related to us, even though they may just be related to someone having a bad day, their mind being on on other things or even due to that persons own insecurities.

How many friendships and relationships have broken down due to these type of misunderstandings?

This speculation is one of the greatest challenges I have to overcome in my own thought life.
It constantly nags at me trying to pull me in to an insecure way of thinking.
It attacks my confidence.
It attempts to stop me being myself and doing what I am built to do.
It feeds my fears.
It paralyses my purpose.
It tries to shipwreck my relationships with others.
It questions my identity and challenges the core of who I am.

It whispers in my ear….
“What are they thinking about you?”
“Do they really like you?”
“Maybe they find you annoying.”
“Maybe they pretend to like you but then talk about you behind your back”
“Maybe they don’t like what you say and do.”
“Maybe you offended them (even though you might not know why).”
“Maybe, Maybe, Maybe….”

Tell me that those thoughts are not enough to make you want to hide away under a rock, out of sight and not face anyone.

from darkness

People can be nasty and we know it!

We have all experienced it and have all done it. Especially if we are having a bad day or two, and if we have had a bad week – oh dear!

It’s all around us;
criticism,
gossip,
negativity,
hate,
trolling,
bullying.

It’s enough to make anyone cynical & even fearful of others.

It’s not surprising that we feel insecure.

So how do we battle through the insecurity and find more freedom in our thoughts?

As I have already said I still don’t find this easy myself. I daily take on the challenge to reign in my insecure thoughts. Some days it’s easier than others. But I have found some keys to freedom and they really help.

The best way I have learnt to overcome my own insecurities about what others are thinking about me is by choosing to relate to other people with GRACE. Now grace is one of those words we often either relate to girls names, meal time prayers or religion. But grace is actually an amazing concept. Grace basically means something described as ‘unmerited favour’. In the context of relationships I would put it like this: it’s not relating to others in response to what they think, say, act or what you get back.

It’s choosing to treat people well regardless.

In the context of faith; it’s loving people whether or not they deserve it.

And yes…. it’s a radical concept!

How is that even possible you might ask?

Well I only find it possible because I know that’s how I am treated. I know that God loves me regardless of what I do. He does not love me because of how good I am (that wouldn’t get me very far anyway because I miss the mark all the time). He loves me by grace and to understand that is so freeing. I no longer have to try and get everything right to get God to love me. He just does and nothing can change that unconditional love.

So from the security of knowing I am loved unconditionally by someone unchanging, I have found I can choose to offer it out to others.

“When we know we are loved we find it easy to love other people”. – John Sentamu

I can build relationships with others from a secure place. I do not need the other person to like, love or think highly of me to feel secure in myself, because I know that my security ultimately comes from God.

When you have to try and work out whether or not someone deserves your love or friendship you start down a confusing and rocky path. The outlook is changeable because one day they do and the next they don’t, which is why so many people have turbulent relationships.

It’s a stressful process!

If you no longer have to go through that process and you choose to approach all your relationships and those around you with grace; you decide to love others regardless.

And it is so freeing!

The challenge is that it takes a lot of humility. Which is why we have the battle in our minds & thoughts. We get angry, hurt and offended and our anger can often be rooted in our pride. We shut people out because we fear them getting close and hurting us. We get offended because the other person said or did something that we didn’t like. So we retaliate with criticism and even hate.

Humility on the other hand says:
I am going to choose to love this person regardless of what I get back.
It puts the other person first.
It chooses to try and understand rather than misunderstand.
I gives people the benefit of the doubt.
It realises everyone makes mistakes
It knows that everyone is fighting their own battles.
It does not stereotype, but sees everyone as worthy of love.

It forgives.
It reaches out.
It is constant.
It is never fake.

“Behind all strife you find ego. Humility always promotes peace”. – Jarrod Cooper

This doesn’t mean I want to spend and invest my time with people who have taken a dislike to me or want to hurt me.

That wouldn’t be healthy.

But it does mean that I can reach out a hand of kindness and friendship to others, regardless of how they respond. And if they choose not to like me that is up to them – you can only build a relationship when two people both want to invest in it.

So if this is the case, I have to let it go, I do not need to hate them or get them back for their dislike of me. It does not need to eat away at me until bitterness takes hold of my heart and I end up taking my anger out on everyone else, including those who love me.

Instead, I can rest in the security that I am loved. With a perfect love from the author of love. A love that is consistent, unfailing, stable and unconditional.

That security always overrides the insecurity that come from others opinions.

from darkness

Yes I still may have to face and overcome the hurt, the pain and embrace my vulnerability and fragility.

But when those insecure thoughts knock at the door to my mind and attempt pull me in, I can retreat to that secure place:

A place that is constant.
Where I know who I am.
A place of safety.
A place of love.
Where I am again built up.
Where encouragement gives me the courage to get back up.
To face the world around me.
Not to be rocked back and forth by the opinions of others.

A place where I realise that others opinions are just that – opinions; that often say more about them than me. Where I can stop being tossed about by the waves of speculation and instead be secure and anchored in the fact that other peoples opinions should never define me or stop me from being the person I really am.

The person that is truly me.

“Lead the life that will make you kind & friendly to everyone about you and you will be surprised what a happy life you will live”. – Charles Schwab